A Lightweight and Accurate Spatial-Temporal Transformer for Traffic Forecasting

Guanyao Li, Shuhan Zhong, Xingdong Deng*, Letian Xiang, S. H. Gary Chan*, Ruiyuan Li, Yang Liu, Ming Zhang, Chih Chieh Hung, Wen Chih Peng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We study the forecasting problem for traffic with dynamic, possibly periodical, and joint spatial-temporal dependency between regions. Given the aggregated inflow and outflow traffic of regions in a city from time slots 0 to t-1, we predict the traffic at time t for any region. Prior arts in the area often considered the spatial and temporal dependencies in a decoupled manner, or were rather computationally intensive in training with a large number of hyper-parameters which needed tuning. We propose ST-TIS, a novel, lightweight and accurate Spatial-Temporal Transformer with information fusion and region sampling for traffic forecasting. ST-TIS extends the canonical Transformer with information fusion and region sampling. The information fusion module captures the complex spatial-temporal dependency between regions. The region sampling module is to improve the efficiency and prediction accuracy, cutting the computation complexity for dependency learning from O(n2) to O(nn), where n is the number of regions. With far fewer parameters than state-of-the-art deep learning models, ST-TIS's offline training is significantly faster in terms of tuning and computation (with a reduction of up to 90% on training time and network parameters). Notwithstanding such training efficiency, extensive experiments show that ST-TIS is substantially more accurate in online prediction than state-of-the-art approaches (with an average improvement of 9.5% on RMSE, and 12.4% on MAPE compared to STDN and DSAN).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10967-10980
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • Efficient Transformer
  • joint spatial-temporal dependency
  • region sampling
  • spatial-temporal data mining
  • spatial-temporal forecasting


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